There are some people that believe having a good pump is required if you truly want to build muscle. However, there are others that say the exact opposite.
Won’t you get a pump from training regardless?
Take a look at any popular preworkout supplement that you can find. You’ll notice that a key selling point on the label has to do with the awesome “pump” you’ll get.
Now google, “is a muscle pump necessary” and click on any of the videos that come up. You’ll notice that they will tell you a pump doesn’t matter or that you shouldn’t go to the gym just to achieve a pump.
There’s actually a bit of science behind “pumps” that’s worth knowing. If you’re healthy and train hard, a pump is in most cases inevitable.
What Is A Muscle Pump?
A muscle pump aka hyperemia is when you have an excess of blood in a boody part due to dilated capillaries and/or artioles which is a response to your exercise and is said to be directly proportional to the force of your muscle contractions.
One of the reasons this helps muscle growth is that the muscles are surrounded by a tissue called the fascial layer. The pump literally stretches this layer out a bit allowing more room for muscle growth to occur.
Because of this extra room for growth, your healthy eating and hard training, your newfound muscle means your body just created more capillaries. Which in turn allows your body to create larger and larger pumps and eventually more growth.
Muscle glycogen is another huge player in creating big pumps in your body. Simply put, when you eat an adequate number of carbs this becomes an energy source that’s stored in your muscles. When your muscles are full of glycogen, your body is carbed up. You’ll achieve a pump much easier in this state.
Types of Pumps
There are two main kinds of pumps to consider. They are the cosmetic pump and the productive pump.
The cosmetic pump is the one that the majority of body builders will perform backstage before going out on stage because it makes the muscles look fuller and bigger.
The productive pump is used to stimulate the trained muscle groups predominant fiber type and then continue to stimulate the remaining fibers of the muscle throughout the entire workout.
For example, the lower body is going to respond better to a higher rep load (as far as a pump is concerned) whereas the upper body typically does not require as many reps in order to get a quality productive pump.
In my experience, most of my clients tend to get better leg pumps on the days where they have lighter leg workouts that have a higher volume with a shorter time for rest.
The better upper body pumps usually occur when there are a few heavy sets initially before the load is tapered down throughout the progression of the workout or with drop sets.
I’ve got an inclination that “pump workouts” are therapeutic and help to prevent injury and overtraining. The key to building large muscles is time under tension, while the key to getting stronger is progressive overload.
A typical pump workout will involve ranges of reps from 8 to 20 per set combined with short rest periods. Multiple sets are done for opposing or same muscle groups. A pump workout may include other advanced training techniques such as:
- Forced reps
- Peak contractions
- Drop sets
Pump workouts help stimulate fatigue patterns if a variety in training is practiced.
There are those who argue that a pump has no positive affect on your training. It’s my belief at this point in my life experience that the pump can actually help create leverage and stabilize the joints.
When performing certain exercises such as the triceps press down, when the bicep is pumped up it provides a cushion effect or rebound effect against the triceps and in turn helps you to lift more weight or complete more reps.
Wouldn’t my CNS be more stimulated if I have a bunch of activated muscle tissue stuffed with plasma?
I would never go into the gym with the inention of working out for a pump. I find that to be misconstrued as my style of training and body inevitably produce a pump with physical exertion.
Personally, I go to the gym to get stronger and to check my discipline. 80% of the time, the same can be said for my clients.
When it comes to pumps it’s really up to the individual to determine whether or not it’s something that they want to incorporate into their fitness regimen or spend money on. For some people pumps provide a solid foundation for a significant source of growth.
There are many proven benefits to using this method of training (aestetics included). However, for other people focusing on pumps is an extra step that they do not want to burden themselves with.
If you’re at a point in your workout where you feel that you could use an extra push, pumps are a great way to stimulate your muscles. I suppose that since I find them to be inevitable and a natural response in the body with smart training and proper eating habits, a muscle pump IS necessary to build muscle. I DO NOT believe supplements promoting a “massive pump” are necessary to build muscle.
David “Is A Pump Necessary” Aston
Korthuis RJ. Skeletal Muscle Circulation. San Rafael (CA): Morgan & Claypool Life Sciences; 2011. Chapter 4, Exercise Hyperemia and Regulation of Tissue Oxygenation During Muscular Activity. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK57139/
Michael E. Tschakovsky and Don D. Sheriff. Skeletal and Cardiac Muscle Blood Flow. Journal of Applied Physiology August 1, 2004 vol. 97 no. 2 Immediate exercise hyperemia: contributions of the muscle pump vs. rapid vasodilation. Available from: http://0-jap.physiology.org.library.pcc.edu/content/97/2/739.full
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